The Miami Heat have consistently opened a big cushion for themselves in the playoffs. They’ve only lost one game in the first two rounds (8-1), allowing extra time for their minds and body to rest, patiently wait, and have extra days to gauge their next foes. For the upcoming conference finals, it turned out to be the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics are the Heat’s second straight top-tier opponent in the postseason, and it will be interesting to see if they can form another solid gameplan. Miami became the talk of the town in the previous round when they made quick work of the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best record and top-rated offense and defense for pretty much the the entire season.
For the Heat’s veteran point guard, Goran Dragic, the shift in will be about opponent depth. It’s not to deny the Bucks’ talent, but the Celtics are simply loaded in all positions.
When discussing the Bucks and Celtics, here’s what Dragic told Jay King of The Athletic in a recent interview:
“I still think Giannis [Antetokounmpo] doesn’t have so much help … [Jayson] Tatum, if you look, he’s got around (him) Kemba [Walker] and [Jaylen] Brown. He’s the leader of that team, no doubt. We need to prepare for him, but we cannot just throw out the whole defense at him and forget about other guys.”
Dragic is well-aware of the Celtics’ trio because not only are they East rivals, the Cs are also one of the few East teams that he and the Heat just couldn’t fully figure out, far from what they have been doing against the other big names in the conference.
The Heat beat the Bucks six out of eight times this season (regular season and playoffs), and those two losses were very winnable too; they ran past the Philadelphia 76ers thrice in four meetings, and was one of only two teams to beat them in Philly; and they won the regular season series with the Toronto Raptors, 2-1, including one where they held them without a field goal in overtime.
Against the Celtics, there’s none of that. The Heat lost twice in three games, one where they got routed by 19 points, and another where they gave up 36 points in the first quarter and played catch-up all game long.
The one thing that can probably boost their confidence is they beat the Celtics in the bubble last August 5th, 112-106. But, then again, it was a weird game and the situations are different now, five weeks later. Tatum only shot 11 times and Walker was still feeling iffy from his injury – it’s borderline impossible to hold Tatum to that field goal attempt again, and Walker is much healthier now.
Dragic and the Heat certainly have their work cut out for them. They will also boast a team-oriented offense and intense defense, and hopefully, we can watch another entertaining chess match of adjustments between the two squads.
Catch Game 1 on Wednesday, September 16 at 6:30 AM, Manila time.